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There is a small, historical town in northeastern Kansas as old as the American settlers who achieved its establishment. In fact, having been founded in 1854, Leavenworth, Kansas is the oldest city in this the thirty-fourth state of the Union. Like many small towns in America, Leavenworth has seen its fair share of ups and downs, and booms and busts. Many of the people, however, who now make up this relatively small Midwestern community, are just as determined to continue Leavenworth's movement into prosperity as those individuals responsible for its original growth.

By the mid nineteenth century the town of Leavenworth had slowly begun to grow up around the then twenty-seven year old Fort Leavenworth, from which the town logically took its name. Dependent on the Fort for safety, the town did not spread very far very fast. Eventually, though, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 opened the area up enough for local inhabitants to secure a solid and independent economy and to officially establish Leavenworth as the first city of the Kansas territory. Quickly Leavenworth became a major economic link to the still expanding west. By the early 1860's it was a major stopping point for many large railway companies including: The Missouri Pacific, The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe, Union Pacific, and The Chicago Great Western Railway Company. People were making their fortunes off the rich surrounding country side and those fortunate enough to be involved in the industrial booms of the area were well on their way to economic independence. Time, however, changed the face of Leavenworth, just as it did all of America. With advancements in computerized technology and the development of overseas markets, the people of Leavenworth have had to change their means of support. As with many small American towns, Leavenworth has become increasingly more consumer-oriented. The historic downtown district of Leavenworth presents itself as an amazing opportunity, to create an accommodating atmosphere of personal service within a framework of boutiques and specialty shops ideal for afternoon stroll shopping. By pulling together in a unified and supportive fashion, the area's various merchants and businesses have come to understand that Leavenworth�s traditional downtown experience is one to be cultivated for the enjoyment of all. Local business people and entertainers alike have once again begun to gravitate towards the downtown district in an attempt to create this needed environment of shopping pleasure, relaxing entertainment, and familial enjoyment. The historic riverfront district of Leavenworth and the individuals who keep shop within it, epitomize not only where Leavenworth is going, but also where it has been, and how this history still affects the everyday lives of the town�s inhabitants. To discover both the true historical significance, and the modern day usefulness of a town like Leavenworth a visitor will need to do some exploring on their own. They will need to discover for themselves the shops of unfound treasures and their respective owners. They will need to talk and listen to the people who make up this town. Only when this has been accomplished will a person be able to understand both the city of and the people in Leavenworth, Kansas.

The best way to begin such a journey is to familiarize yourself with no place other than the downtown district itself. While it covers their city blocks, a newcomer might want to prelimit themselves to a few specific shops and activities. Your first stop should be at a delightfully unique antique store by the name of June�s. Owned by a woman long associated with the prevalent military community of Fort Leavenworth, June's is stocked with articles and keepsakes collected during the owner's worldly travels. Displayed alongside country collectibles and traditional antiques, original Cambodian glass figurines, strands of fresh water pearls from Thailand, and an extensive collection of Southeast Asian basket weaving are also exhibited. Visitors enjoy the lingering smell of cinnamon as they take in the store's obvious air of eclecticism. June, herself a quirky and personable woman, has created a sunlit shop of unmatched comfort and pleasure.
Having finished at June�s, head one street north to Delaware Street. This street is, hands down, the district's center, possessing most of the area's specialty shops, antique stores, and eating establishments. Make your first stop the Cinnamon Stick. A lovely store owned and operated by a fourth generation local, the Cinnamon Stick is especially nice if you have young children with you. Accurately named, the shop's candy counter is sure to welcome and enthrall any young taste buds that chance upon it.
This shop is exceptional in that it offers one-of-a-kind collectibles perfect for sprucing up one's home. It also contains the kinds of crafts that make wonderful housewarming gifts for newcomers, or local keepsakes for someone leaving the area. Blessed with a wife talented and artistic enough to keep the shop stocked with wonderfully unique Kansas sunflower crafts and American patriotism woodworking, the owner of the Cinnamon Stick keeps a shop as aesthetically pleasing as the crafts it houses. If you are successful enough to get the children away from the candy counter and out of the store, or you yourself have enough will power to resist the Cinnamon Stick's gourmet coffee bar, make your way across the street to the largest antique store of the district, Caffee's Antiques. Note, however, before you become entranced by the shop's great selection of antique furniture and vintage clothes, that there is in fact a quiet Victorian tea room in the back of the store. If you are in the area during the lunching hours you may just want to traverse the concrete pathways back to the aptly named, Tea Room, and enjoy a light lunch among quiet treasures. The shop itself is a 6500 square foot two story building from the late 1800's. Now housing fifty separate booths, Caffee's Antiques has been in existence for almost a year. More like a warehouse than a single shop, you will better survive the experience if you can remain cool, calm, and collected while perusing a myriad of collectibles, ranging from period furniture pieces to post depression glassware.

By this point in your journey it may very well be time for a mid-day repast. While the Tea Room is an excellent choice for satisfying the afternoon meal, it is not the only option. In fact, there are four or five other worthwhile possibilities. All but one are on Delaware Street and it is at 316 Shawnee Street, just one street north of Delaware. A relatively new addition to the downtown district, this coffeehouse/ restaurant/ bar serves delightful sandwiches and other light lunch items, along with its ever-present coffees, cakes, and teas.

If you prefer to remain on Delaware Street, a street you will have undoubtedly become comfortable with, then there are two or three other establishments. The Delaware Deli lies closest to the river and, as the name implies, serves up an assortment of deli sandwiches. This particular establishment offers a comfortable atmosphere which wil1 most certainly allow you to sit back and relax from a hard day of shopping, walking, and enjoying the sights of the area. If a light lunch in a quietly casual setting is preferable try the Harbor Lights Coffeehouse. Serving up an array of sandwiches and beverages for your lunch time pleasure, Harbor Lights has become a favorite of many locals. On the other hand, if a hot meal is more your style, then there is the Rexall Diner. Reminiscent of nineteen fifties diners, this informal eatery allows one to enjoy a meal at a traditional lunch counter.

No matter where you maybe positioned after lunch, you must make your way to the east end of town and visit what are known as the Landing shops. These Landing shops, located closest to the river on Delaware Street, fill buildings within the downtown district that are especially rich in their historical significance. From the mid to late 1800's, the buildings that these shops now occupy were responsible for housing the thousands of settlers who traversed Leavenworth before making their way out west. The buildings housed banks, hotels, saloons, offices, general stores, and even the livery stables. Restored in 1976 by the local Greenamyre family, new shops and stores have taken over the Landing. The Country Cupboard and the Fuller Gallery of Fine Arts are two such shops.

The Country Cupboard, owned and operated by Merle Estabrook, is a heavenly find for all who consider themselves collectors, in everything from light house statuettes, to seasonal figurines, to specifically Christmas oriented keepsakes. The shop even carries a special line of collectibles known as The Cats Meow Village. A famous line of wooden figurines representing national and worldly landmarks, these particular collectibles are carried exclusively by The Country Cupboard. The shop even offers hard to find local Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth landmarks. Besides this local memorabilia, The Country Cupboard is also a main source for more general Kansas keepsakes. Merle has one of a kind gift baskets of traditional Kansas foods, she carries an extensive collection of Wizard of Oz items, and she also has a wide selection of Kansas tee-shirts, books, and other miscellaneous collectibles. Whether you are looking for gifts for the many military Hail and Farewells or you are merely looking for gifts that symbolize Kansas and Kansans, then The Country Cupboard is your best bet.
The Country Cupboard is also a wonderful store if you have children with you. There is a special section just inside the store's main entrance that is reserved specifically for children. It carries books, puzzles, games, and trinkets intended to entertain for hours on end. Next door to The Country Cupboard is the Fuller Gallery of Fine Art. Lu Fuller, who is the gallery�s owner, is also the artist responsible for the numerous paintings displayed in the gallery.

Her rural watercolors capture the abstract beauty in the daily life of individuals dependent on the countryside. Like those people who created this town, many of the people here are still dependent on the rural economy of both Kansas and the nation. In those respects life may not be very different now than it was in 1854. Many of Lu Fuller�s works accurately portray and capture the seasonal strife in this kind of life, yet at the same time depict the tranquillity of a life so close to one's natural surroundings. One might think that the presence of original art in a town the size of Leavenworth is a rarity, but there are in fact other prominent art galleries in the downtown area. A newcomer to this genre of shops is the Underground Art Gallery. Hidden in the basement of the Brother�s Antique Store, the Underground Art Gallery features paintings in a variety of themes and mediums including oil and silk paintings. Painted by a coalition of local artists, new selections of art are always being received by the gallery. Because of its ever-changing selection it is a place to frequent regularly.
Another of these local galleries is positioned just west of Caffee's Antique Store, though in truth it is much more than an art gallery. Frame 'n' Country is actually a combination of art gallery, custom framing shop, and provider of framing and displaying accessories. The store carries a wide assortment of prints, ranging from historical military representations to classic botanical designs. For artistic entertainment of a different sort, visit the Hollywood Theater. Informally known as the Leavenworth Building of the Performing Arts, this restored theater is the center for the town's dramatic action. If live theater is your cup of tea, then you will want to stay up on the Hollywood Theaters performance schedule. Because the Hollywood Theater's performances are done in the evening, the day's activities do not necessarily have to end when the sun goes down. Nor does one have to consider the night finished just because their primary downtown activity has concluded. Both of the previously mentioned coffeehouses are wonderful extensions of any night out on the town. Harbor Lights, however, has a more casual, left coast atmosphere. With its in store Internet access and gourmet coffees to which so many of us have become accustomed, Harbor Lights, just east of the Hollywood Theater on Delaware Street, allows one to spend quiet hours perusing the web, sitting back with a good book, or merely enjoying good company within the confines of the shops quietness. If you are out after five and are looking for a slightly more social setting then you may want to stop into the Yesterdaze Coffeehouse. After five this coffeehouse by day turns into a musically energized bar and offers a satisfactory environment for those looking to be less isolated. Whether you decide to stay out late and take in a show, or you head home after an afternoon of exploration, hopefully the day will turn out successfully.

There is no doubt that modern material objects can be found in Leavenworth. In a town where even the local hardware store is known to be a specialty shop one should be able to find most anything they need and enjoy themselves while they do their searching. One hopes, though, that in the time spent walking around the downtown district, a visitor will have been able to open their eyes to an area of more historical significance and richness than any of its material possessions. The nineteenth century buildings, the downtown plaques summarizing historical events, and the people's desire to keep this history alive all make Leavenworth a special place. Even the city�s attempt to bring home a Parker Carousel horse is a noteworthy occasion illustrating the pride of Leavenworth's citizens.

Parker carousel horses, originally manufactured in Leavenworth, were shipped all around the country for use in circuses and fairs. Eventually replaced by more sophisticated carousels, Parker carousel horses became strictly antiques. In an effort to bring history home, the city has taken the necessary steps to purchase one of the last remaining horses, thus, allowing all who live and pass through the area to partake in the city's role in history, its preservation of that history, and its subsequent responsibility to the city�s future.

With the continued support of both local and temporary residents, downtown Leavenworth will continue to flourish into the model district its shopkeepers are attempting to create. The realization of this goal continues to becomes increasingly clearer as more and more people turn to the downtown district for their shopping or entertainment needs.

Written by Rachel Davidson, Leavenworth, Kansas.